6 ways to be social while on a budget

Brunch with friends. Dinner and a show. Drinks after work. Why do all of the fun activities cost money? Luckily, we've got six tips to help you enjoy time with friends and family members while sticking to a budget.

By Alyssa Ashton

6 ways to be social while on a budget
©iStockphoto.com/FredS
It's so hard to say "no" when a friend asks you out for brunch or your family invites you to a theatre show. As much as you may want to go, you know you're on a tight budget thanks to student debt or that vacation you're saving up for. Financial blogger Krystal Yee can empathize – she chronicled her struggle to get out of debt on her blog Give Me Back My Five Bucks.

"Some days it feels like everything you want to do in life just costs money," she says. "As soon as you restrict yourself, you're like: 'Darn it! I want to do all these things.'"

Here Yee shares some of her tips on how to stick to a budget while still having fun with family and friends.

1. Suggest something cheaper

When friends suggest you grab dinner and drinks and then enjoy some dancing on a Saturday night, you may internally cringe at the thought of spending money on food, drinks and cover. Rather than saying "no" to a night out, Yee recommends suggesting a cheaper alternative instead.

"If you're passive about it and go about what everyone else is doing, you're not going to be saving money," she says. If your friends want to go dancing, why not suggest you all try a cheap dance class at your local community centre instead.

2. Go to free events
We often don't realize how many local events are free to attend. "There's always something different out there that doesn't cost money," says Yee. "I think it's just a matter of doing the research."

Scour your newspaper for free events or go to a community centre or coffee shop where they have corkboards advertising free festivals, exhibits and concerts. Yee also recommends getting outside – going to the beach or tobogganing down a hill is always free!

3. Step outside of your comfort zone

When we go out with friends and family we tend to always do the same activities, explains Yee. "You're used to going to brunch, you're used to going to this bar after work," she says.

So why not break out of your comfort zone and try something new? Instead of spending $20 on brunch, why not try a cheap cooking class. "For every expensive activity there's always a cheaper activity that can be just as fun," she says. "It's just a matter of using your imagination."

4. Set a group challenge

Yee loves setting challenges for herself – say, bringing her lunch to work every day for a whole month or not buying coffee for two weeks. Instead of undertaking these challenges by herself, though, she invites friends and coworkers to join her.

"Then you don't lose the social aspect of hanging out with your friends or coworkers and you still get to save the money in the process," she says. She and a coworker will take their bagged lunches and eat together outside or take leisurely walks during their break.

5. Use technology to your advantage
Skype, Google Hangouts, Snapchat and Facebook are all great ways to stay connected with friends, without spending any money. In fact, Yee says she and her friends have a blast on Twitter. They have little contests to see who can find the strangest story or the funniest photo to tweet.

"There are always ways to have fun online and be with friends and not necessarily have to fly out there or try and get a big group together," she says. "It's just a matter of being creative."

6. Make a vision board
Inevitably, there will be moments when you hate that you have to say no to an outing with friends or that you have to find a cheaper alternative when you really want that fancy dinner. Yee suggests making a vision board that will remind you why you're saving money.

"I kind of knew that my debt was holding me back from everything I wanted in life," says Yee. "I wanted to travel. I wanted to have the freedom to do whatever I wanted." So she spent an afternoon with some magazines and glue, pasting images of all of the things she wanted in life onto a piece of paper, which now hangs on her fridge.

"When I felt kind of low or felt kind of depressed about not being able to do certain things, I would look at that paper and go: 'You know what, this is for something bigger,'" she says.

We've got more tips to help you save money, including 30 ways to reduce your debt

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